by Freeman Razemba and Innocent Ruwende (Herald)
Government is working on a new traffic system to restore order in Harare because police and council are struggling to stamp their authority on commuter omnibus drivers who are flouting regulations at will, resulting in the death of innocent people.
Several people have been knocked down, and some killed, as kombi drivers attempt to evade the police.
On Tuesday, a commuter omnibus ran over and killed four-year-old Tanatswa Neil Mutyora while fleeing police in the city centre.
The driver has since been arrested, but it is not clear what, if any, action is being taken against the cops concerned.
Residents have questioned why the police and council play cat-and-mouse with public transporters without ever seeming to bring any semblance of order.
Previously, police have shown they can ensure order very quickly, but it seems the situation is different when it comes to commuter omnibuses.
There is a strong belief that the problem is compounded by the fact that some cops are soliciting for bribes from kombi crews to allow the latter to operate outside the law.
The result has been that kombi crews that bribe their way onto the roads then flee when they encounter other police officers. In some cases, residents say, the drivers do not stop when ordered to do so by the police because they are tired of paying bribes.
Home Affairs Deputy Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told The Herald yesterday that Government would introduce an integrated traffic management system using modern technology to arrest traffic offenders.
He said they had identified a partner for establishment of the system.
Deputy Minister Ziyambi said the new technology would help curb corruption as it entailed closer monitoring.
“We are still negotiating the new system and I cannot give a specific time when it would be ready,” Deputy Minister Ziyambi said.
Harare Residents Trust director Mr Precious Shumba said it was clear that the police and the city had failed to “put their foot down” in dealing with kombis.
“The continued loss of life at the hands of State and municipal police is clear testimony that traffic policy within local government has dismally failed,” he said. “Existing by-laws on public transportation are not being implemented and this has given rise to massive corruption by State and municipal police who allegedly pocket most of the fines they charge.”
The Harare City Council yesterday asked residents to help deal with kombis and pirate taxis.
“The city requires full community participation for effective management of the public transport sector,” said the council communications division. “Commuters should avoid using illegal public transport and from alighting at undesignated spots.
“Our traffic enforcement division is doing a sterling job in controlling illegal activities, all it requires is community support. The city also expects ZRP to play its part.”
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said commuter omnibus drivers should not flee from the police.
“We cannot have a lawless country where commuter omnibus drivers flout rules and regulations and in turn get accolades from the media,” she said.
“Whilst the ZRP regrets the loss of innocent life, we are demanding commuter omnibus drivers not to flee from the police and observe the laws of the country.”
She identified the kombi driver in the Tuesday incident as Kusotera Lloyd (29) of Budiriro 5A.
“Upon seeing police details who were on decongestion duties, Kusotera Lloyd sped off against a one-way along Chinhoyi Street towards Samora Machel Avenue,” she said.
He the knocked down Tanatswa who sustained serious head injuries and was taken to Avenues Clinic where he died.
Residents say it is up to the police and city authorities to ensure commuter omnibuses operate within the confines of the law.
They also say police can simply note the license plates of offending kombis for action later on, instead of engaging in high-speed chases.